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CNN Larry King Live - Transcript

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CNN Larry King Live - Transcript
Wednesday, September 28, 2005


KING: Let's hear from our Congresswoman. Congresswoman Ros- Lehtinen, what do you make of it? You're on the Government Reform Committee. Are you worried?

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Oh, no, not at all. You know the old adage is that a grand jury can indict a ham sandwich. Well, this is a ham sandwich indictment with one correction. There's no ham in the sandwich. Where's the beef?

This is baseless allegations. This indictment is not based on law. It's not based on facts. Ronnie Earle has had six grand juries. He's been investigating Tom DeLay for two years and the best that he can come up with is this thin indictment about a conspiracy and he makes it sound as if you could not raise money from corporations in Texas. Now, you cannot do that in my state of Florida but you are allowed to do that in Tom DeLay's state and what he...

KING: But you can't give it to a politician right?

ROS-LEHTINEN: But they didn't. But he's not alleging that they gave it to the politician. He's saying that Tom DeLay was involved in this -- in this conspiracy. Well you've got to prove intent and nowhere in this indictment is he going to be able to prove intent. There was no intent to do so.

KING: Congresswoman you would be saying the same if a Democrat were indicted?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Absolutely.

KING: OK, I just want to stand on record that we stand on innocence until proven guilty (INAUDIBLE). ROS-LEHTINEN: Absolutely and I wish that other folks would understand that this is innocent until proven guilty but they're already, as I said an indictment is almost like you're saying you're guilty.

KING: Is it illegal for the corporation to give to the pack and the pack then to give it to the candidate? Isn't that a way of just getting around it?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, that's what Ronnie Earle has to prove that Tom DeLay was involved in this conspiracy to make sure that you can trace money X to this -- from this corporation to the party and that the party was specifically told by Tom DeLay...

KING: I mean that's illegal right?

ROS-LEHTINEN: give to individual candidates. Ronnie Earle himself has received money from packs because he's an elected officials. Where do packs get the money? They get it from corporations. But he doesn't want to apply the same contortion of truth and law to his own case.

KING: I want to just understand something before I move to Marty. Is it illegal for a corporation to give to a pack and a pack to take that money and give it to a politician?

ROS-LEHTINEN: No. The pack can decide. The corporations give it to the party. The party can decide...

KING: Then what's the cloud of the law...

ROS-LEHTINEN: ...the party can decide to whom they should give it to. There's no problem there.

KING: So then there's no cloud to the law if a corporation can't give to a candidate if I can give it through another source?

ROS-LEHTINEN: You give it to -- you give it to a source and then that source will decide who to give it to. Now, Democrats in Texas have used this sort of some -- you know, Ronnie Earle calls it a scheme. Democrat -- the Democratic Party has done the same thing yet there's no investigation of Democrats using this organization.

KING: Congressman Meehan what do you make of it?

REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, first of all I think that the case will be decided based on the evidence and based on the facts and based on the law. I'm a former prosecutor and well that's the way you decide these cases.

We're a country of laws and what has happened here apparently is Tom DeLay was involved in a -- in an effort to get corporate money to elected officials in Texas and I doubt the D.A. has indicted or the 12 members of the grand jury has indicted without some evidence that that, in fact, happened. We're going to have to see how that case plays out. I think a broader issue here, I mean this indictment is the tip of the iceberg. The fact of the matter is we have an investigation.

We have the Karl Rove matter at the White House. We have an official over at the Office of Management and Budget, a Bush administration official who was arrested. We have the Abermoff (ph) scandal. We have lobbyists paying for trips.

It's clearly time for ethics reform in Washington and it's clear that the American people, every poll you look at the president's poll numbers are the lowest they've ever been. The Congress poll numbers were the lowest they've ever been. Isn't it time for us to pass real reform of ethics rules and reform the way our system is set up? I think the American public is tired of it all.

KING: Let me get a break and we'll come back. We'll dig right into it with everybody. Don't go away.


KING: Congresswoman Lehtinen, party politics aside, aren't you concerned about ethics at any level?

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Sure we are. Everyone is concerned about ethics. Ethics is not a partisan matter that the Democrats think that they own. And when you talk about ethics, let's talk about the ethics of Ronnie Earle. Here you have a person who is involved in the investigation of many political officials. He makes an appearance at a Texas Democrat Party fundraiser and what does he talk about in his speech, the possible indictment of Tom DeLay. What is the ethics in that involvement...

KING: No, my question to you was...


KING: Do you question the Abramoff and the indictment of...

ROS-LEHTINEN: Of course...

KING: ... the arrest of a White House...


ROS-LEHTINEN: And if the Democrats would participate in the process of our Ethics Committee, we could finally have these matters resolved starting with the first matter that has been held over, which is of a Democrat congressman who has been accused of illegally taping a phone conversation. That's the first matter to be...

KING: All right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: ... discussed but the Democrats don't want to participate in the Ethics Committee because they want to keep this as a political machine. They don't want the issues resolved.


ROS-LEHTINEN: And when Tom DeLay's case is resolved, he will be exonerated.

KING: And if he isn't, you will attack him.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I don't attack anyone. I will say...

KING: No, I mean if he's found guilty...


KING: ... you will join in the...

ROS-LEHTINEN: If he's found guilty, that's the American judicial system...


ROS-LEHTINEN: ... at work and thank goodness we live in a country where the rule of law is king and...

KING: OK, Congressman...

ROS-LEHTINEN: ... no one is above that.

KING: Congressman Meehan, she's saying the Democrats don't care about ethics.

REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well she can sign on to my lobbyist Reform and Ethics Bill and that would certainly be a step in the right direction. But Larry look, the Republicans control the White House in Washington, the Senate and the House of Representatives. And unfortunately there is a culture of arrogance and corruption that has been developed here.

They were elected to change Washington 11 years ago, and it appears that Washington has changed them. Too often they are taking care of their own self-interests and the interest of their cronies over the interest of the people. And we've seen it time and time again and that's why the American people are demanding a change.

You look at Iraq and the inability to deal with Iraq. You look at what happened in Louisiana. You look at a prescription drug bill that was written by the pharmaceutical industry. And by the way, Tom DeLay got the votes for that in a open vote from 2:15 in the morning until 5:30 in the morning, so we can do better and it's time that we put the interest of the public...

KING: All right.

MEEHAN: ... above private special interests.


KING: We're back. Congressman Lehtinen, Tom DeLay said in an interview that the United House Republic -- this indictment will unite House Republicans as never before. Why?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well I think that we all saw this in the Republican Conference as a political witch-hunt. In several Republican conferences that we held just today, every time Tom DeLay spoke he got a standing ovation and that's because we know of the political motivations behind this indictment.

And one of your callers had asked about some of the Democrat indictments of Ronnie Earle and let me just quickly go through two of them right now if I could, Larry. Ronnie Earle's charges in the 1980's against former Attorney General Jim Maddox, a Democrat who was a political foe of Earle fell apart at the trial. Another one, Ronnie Earle's charges against former House Speaker Gib Lewis, a conservative Democrat, was also criticized and fell apart. He went after conservative Democrat Bob Bullock, all these folks, sure...


ROS-LEHTINEN: ... they're Democrat, but they're conservative Democrats. I think we see a real political agenda...


ROS-LEHTINEN: ... the Republicans...


ROS-LEHTINEN: It fell apart in the trial, fell apart...


KING: I'll ask you again, if a Democrat were indicted today, would your conference committee call for support of him or her until resolved?

ROS-LEHTINEN: I think everyone, Democrat and Republican would have or should have the same sort of response. We are innocent until proven guilty...


ROS-LEHTINEN: ... and what we have seen -- you know my good friend Marty has talked about all of these great ethics bills that he's filing, it makes it look like the Republicans are the anti- ethical folks. Well let me talk to you about just two folks. How about -- do you remember former Speaker of the House, Jim Wright. Do you remember former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski? There was -- sure, they were innocent until proven guilty but they were proven guilty.

KING: Now Jim Wright was -- resigned under ethics. He wasn't charged with a crime.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well but he was Democrat and...

KING: But he wasn't proven guilty of anything. OK, Marty Meehan...

ROS-LEHTINEN: Too bad Ronnie Earle wasn't there at the time...

KING: Do you think -- Marty Meehan, do you think that this brings Republicans together?

MEEHAN: Well until the poll numbers continue to go down. The fact of the matter is that the Republican leadership is very unpopular in America and Republicans are very lucky that the election isn't this November. I think if the election were this November, Republicans would have a different attitude about this. Look, if you examine the fact that gasoline is over $3 a gallon, if you look at the fact that people across the country are tired of cronyism, they're tired of corruption, they want change.

They want to get Washington headed into a new direction and if this Republican leadership doesn't change the course that they're on, then I think you're going to see Republicans, particularly the independent Republicans get very concerned and try to get in a new direction. This whole idea that they (UNINTELLIGIBLE) into a fight with the prosecutor, this is a case in the end that will come down to the evidence, the facts and the law.


MEEHAN: Let the judicial system do it.


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